Three Convicted in Federal Court for Their Role in a Nationwide Timeshare Telemarketing Fraud Scheme Targeting the Elderly
United States Attorney James L. Santelle of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced today that following a six day jury trial, Jason D. Schultz (age: 31), and Jessica M. Gilbert (age: 25) of Green Bay, Wisconsin, as well as Jessica Weinhart (nee Hensen) (age: 31) of Neenah, Wisconsin were convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The jury further found that they had engaged in a telemarketing scheme that defrauded at least 10 individuals over the age of 55 thus subjecting each to enhanced penalties under the “Senior Citizens Against Marketing Scams” or SCAMS Act. Each faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years. Sentencing hearings have been scheduled for January 27, 2014, before Chief District Court Judge William C. Griesbach, at the federal courthouse in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The evidence presented at trial proved that each of the defendants participated in a fraudulent timeshare resale telemarketing scheme located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which resulted in over three thousand victims in all fifty states and Canada being defrauded of approximately $2.5 million. The fraudulent scheme spanned from April 2007 to April 2011, and operated under several different business entities, including: Integrated Advertising Solutions, National Timeshare Resales, Administrative Timeshare Resales, and Midwest Timeshares. Numerous witnesses and victims testified that timeshare owners, most of them elderly, were contacted by telemarketers and told that “interested buyers” were prepared to purchase their timeshares in exchange for upfront fees ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. After handing over their payment information, victims received a one page contract which informed them that they were merely paying for “advertising” on the company’s website. Evidence showed that telemarketers determined the fee amount based solely on the vulnerability and susceptibility of the victims to their untruthful sales pitch. Victims that contacted the companies seeking a refund or inquiring about the status of the sale of their timeshare were repeatedly told lies or given excuses designed to keep them from contacting their financial institution and stopping payment to the fraudulent entities. Twelve victims from around the country ranging in age from sixty-nine to ninety-one testified at trial that they were guaranteed buyers in exchange for the up-front fee. Several of the victims testified that they had been defrauded by similar schemes in the past.
Five other individuals previously plead guilty for their participation in the timeshare resale telemarketing fraud, including the primary figure in the scheme, Mark S. Parks. All are currently awaiting sentencing.
This case was a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the Better Business Bureau, and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew L. Jacobs and Daniel R. Humble.
Over the past decade similar timeshare resale telemarketing schemes have grown exponentially, due to a glut of timeshare ownership and rising maintenance fees. Many of these fraudulent schemes are operated by companies based in Florida and Nevada. Timeshare owners receiving solicitations to sell or advertise their ownership interests should contact the Federal Trade Commission, United States Postal Inspection Service, local FBI office, their State’s office of consumer protection, or State Attorney General’s office.